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Archive for June, 2015


Aidikoff, Uhl & Bakhtiari Partner Ryan Bakhtiari to Speak at 2015 PLI Securities Arbitration Program

Aidikoff, Uhl & Bakhtiari partner Ryan Bakhtiari has been invited to participate as a speaker at the 2015 Practicing Law Institute (PLI) conference program on Thursday, July 30, 2015.

The PLI Securities Arbitration program is held at the PLI New York Center and also online by webcast.  The program brings together legal professionals with securities industry regulators to discuss hot topics in the securities arbitration practice area.  This year’s conference features sessions geared toward attorneys, including:  Hot Topics of Interest in 2015, Definition of Customer and Evolution of Fiduciary Duty, Product Cases, Confidentiality, Ethics and Future Trends.

For more information and to register for the conference, visit http://www.pli.edu/re.aspx?pk=59146&t=THF5_SARB5.

SEC Charges Investment Adviser With Defrauding Retired Teachers

The Securities and Exchange Commission today charged an investment adviser in Miami with siphoning money from his investment fund and defrauding investors, including several local teachers and law enforcement officers.

The SEC alleges that Phil Donnahue Williamson conducted a Ponzi scheme with money he raised for the Sterling Investment Fund, which purportedly invested in mortgages and properties in Florida and Georgia.  Many of Williamson’s investors were public sector retirees such as teachers and law enforcement officers who sought safe investments for their retirement savings.  Williamson assured investors there was no risk involved and they would receive annual returns of 8 to 12 percent.  But rather than invest their money as promised, he used the majority of fund assets to pay his personal expenses and make supposed returns to investors.  Williamson created fictitious valuations that were sent to investors.

“We allege that Williamson lured retired teachers, law enforcement officers, and others into believing that the Sterling Investment Fund was a safe investment generating significant returns,” said Eric I. Bustillo, Director of the SEC’s Miami Regional Office.  “Investors entrusted him with their retirement savings, and he spent it as his own money.”

According to the SEC’s complaint filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, one retired Miami-Dade County school teacher and church pastor invested $125,000 in the fund.  That same day, Williamson transferred himself $10,000 to pay his credit card bill and make a car payment to BMW among other personal expenditures.  Williamson later paid $24,400 to other investors in the fund as purported distributions, and transferred himself another $24,000 to pay additional personal expenses.

In a parallel action, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida today announced criminal charges against Williamson.

FINRA Launches National Ad Campaign Promoting BrokerCheck

Spots Underscore the Ease and Importance of Checking Before You Invest

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) today launched a national ad campaign promoting BrokerCheck (brokercheck.finra.org), FINRA’s free online tool that allows investors to access information about every broker’s employment history, certifications and licenses, as well as regulatory actions, violations or complaints made against them.

The ads, created by Ogilvy & Mather, feature humorous examples of people taking action without conducting any background research, including:

  • a bride surprised by her organist’s song choice;
  • a man too late in reading the listed side effects of the medication he has taken; and
  • a truck driver blissfully ignorant of a road’s clearance restrictions.

Viewers are urged not to make the same type of leap-before-you-look mistakes when choosing a broker—they should use BrokerCheck.

The 15-second spots will run for five weeks on cable channels, including CNBC, Bloomberg, CNN, MSNBC, Fox Business, Fox News, ESPN, Discovery, The History Channel and HGTV. A print ad will run in The Wall Street Journal tomorrow. The campaign will run digitally on relevant sites that includeBloomberg, CNBC, Fortune, Reuters, TubeMogul, the Undertone Network and Wall Street Journal, and search engines Google, Bing/Yahoo andYouTube.

Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of FINRA, Richard G. Ketchum, said, “BrokerCheck is a key component to FINRA’s ongoing efforts to help investors make informed choices about brokers and brokerage firms. People immediately go online to check out a new restaurant where they might spend $25 for a meal, but don’t think to use BrokerCheck when they’re handing over $2,500—or $25,000 of their life’s savings or even more—to an investment professional to invest. That has to change, and we hope this campaign will help.”

FINRA, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, is the largest independent regulator for all securities firms doing business in the United States. FINRA is dedicated to investor protection and market integrity through effective and efficient regulation and complementary compliance and technology-based services. FINRA touches virtually every aspect of the securities business – from registering and educating all industry participants to examining securities firms, writing rules, enforcing those rules and the federal securities laws, and informing and educating the investing public. In addition, FINRA provides surveillance and other regulatory services for equities and options markets, as well as trade reporting and other industry utilities. FINRA also administers the largest dispute resolution forum for investors and firms. For more information, please visit www.finra.org.

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